• Interview

Interview: Ill Poetic

This weekend Cincinnati welcomes an array of Hip-Hop icons (Atmosphere and Nas, anyone?), local, regional and international. While the draw might be some of the larger acts - indie Hip-Hop, all told, has some incredible, intense and ultimately hard acts to follow – it’s one local act in particular that, oddly enough, ties a lot of those elements together. 

Ill Poetic got his start in the Cincinnati Hip-Hop scene (working, creating and performing with friends of mine), so his inclusion in this year’s Ubahn Fest is something not only worth celebrating, but paying close attention to.

Of course, he tells his story much better than I ever will. So check out a quick Q & A with Ill Poetic about his move to the West Coast, what keeps him motivated, and see what he’s been up to. Hint: He’s been very, very busy.

You’ve been out on the West Coast for some time now, so there might be some who don’t know that you are originally from the Cincinnati area. What took you to the West Coast? What keeps you coming back?
I'm usually headed wherever creativity takes me. Thankfully, California was in my whole family's best interest as well. There are a ton of creative artists and musicians in Ohio that I still work with and check for, but I just couldn't find the spark in Ohio any more for where I was looking to go. California isn't a magical place where you're guaranteed to find your dreams and passions, but for me, I had a pretty clear idea of what I needed and thankfully, I've found it out here in ways I'd never imagined. 

I love Cincinnati. Cinci is where I came into myself as an artist, period. My connection will always be to the Cinci scene and people I came up with in my early 20s. I never want my creativity to be bound to a zip code, but leaving that zip code doesn't mean I have to give up my identity with the community and scene. I'd like to hope I help spread Cincinnati and it's influence in me & my sound because I've left to explore different creative spaces. Though I know the city changes, I honestly feel an even stronger connection from out west; I don't get caught up in the day to day politics of the local scene, I only see the creative pulse, community and uniqueness of the city, it's music and people. I value it way more now being so far removed.

I come back because I love it and people keep coming to my shows. Every year I can't believe you guys haven't forgotten about me. It's a huge source of inspiration for me, I hope it never stops and I hope to keep coming back year after year until you're all done with me.

The last few years have been fairly busy for you. For those who might not have been keeping up, can you talk a little bit about what you’ve been up to?
In November 2014, I helped my partner DJ Inform (Columbus, OH transplant) build his record shop out here in San Diego. The growth of that business gave me some stability and let me publicly launch my Graphic & Sound-Design company, SoundRzn. SoundRzn has existed for years, but as a private thing with a small pool of clientele. I spent the summer of 2015 researching, reading, learning and studying the freelancing and small business ownership game and by that Fall, I was ready to go public. That opened my time to really focus in with my team on the relaunch of our label, Definition Music. This past January, we relaunched the label as a multi-media platform and released 2 projects this year: A short film/EP titled "The Enemies You Keep" by Kindred Bay, and my newest EP & Short Film "The Silhouette Project", of which I was fortunate to tour behind as well. 

Just a couple months ago, indie label Mello Music Group released "Instinctive Drowning" an album I fully produced by Detroit emcee Red Pill. It's been one of the biggest projects I've been a part of, but beyond that probably my proudest. I'm a huge fan of Pill as an artist and writer, and he let me and my band do a lot of creative things with the music, and it just translated into something really special. So if you're reading, all these projects I mentioned above -- you should totally, definitely check them all out.

You’ve definitely been prolific - new label, production work and your own music. What keeps you going?
I don't know. I just know I'm supposed to keep going, so I keep going. I'm scared to stop. Once I start wrapping a project, whether album, label launch, etc., I usually have an idea of what the next few projects on the agenda are. Every time we finish something, another project off in the horizon becomes a little more clear.

Can you talk a little about how you got involved with Ubahn and what it means to you to perform with such notable acts in your hometown/area?
I've known Sean (Self Diploma) for 6 or 7 years. Self Diploma started taking off right as I was leaving the city, but we'd chopped it up a few times and I genuinely dug his mind and what he was interested in doing. In 2011, he brought our Ohio Takeover Tour roster (myself, J. Rawls, Vada FKA L.e for the Uncool & Illogic) to his Summer Slam Series on Fountain Square. It was an immensely memorable experience for me. I'd always been open to working with them again, but didn't really know if my sound & vibe intersected with their direction. I also didn't know what my wave in Cincinnati looked like to know if I'd even draw anyone like that. So it feels great to play this event, specifically with so many of my Scribble Jam era friends and acts on the bill. The whole vibe, at least in line-up, promo, etc. has that same feel, but with their interpretation on it. I'm excited to even be thought of in this equation.

After Ubahn, what’s next?
Right now I'm heavily focused on my live show and producing. I've just been deeply studying, reading, learning, listening, soaking shit up. I'm definitely in a really creative space musically, so I'm just trying to follow it out to it's logical endpoints. My drummer Don Carlos (my live show collaborator) just moved to LA, which has me anxious to step the production aspect of my live show up since it doesn't really exist at all right now. Now that he's out west, I feel much more confident in booking shows out this way and I just want our live show to be exceptional through and through. 

On the label tip, my partner Huntor Prey, an amazing spoken-word artist/emcee from Toledo, OH will be releasing his new EP "Running Man" this Fall. I handled production on that record, we'll have some visuals set as well. I'm excited to close the year of releases out with this project. We're really trying to take our time with releases, fine-tune shit and just execute release campaigns to the best of our abilities and resources. 

Lastly, I'm always operating SoundRzn, for folks in search of graphic work, music production, mixing. This company helps keep the lights on and the projects coming, so I'm always looking to collaborate with folks in need of these services.

Anything else you’d like to add or mention?
Thank you guys for caring about what I have to say and caring to see me perform live. I'm looking forward to bringing the band to Cincinnati and seeing all of my friends. 

Sincere thanks to Ill Poetic for answering our questions. Please make time to see him this Friday, at Ubahn Fest, at 7:45 on the Graff Stage. In the meantime, check out what he’s been up to at the following links: